UAM lands 20 on fall GAC All-Academic team

Arguably among the best advertising campaigns of all-time, the NCAA has a way of making fans understand playing sports is only a small part of the college experience for anyone on a team. The classroom has a much bigger impact on the majority of them.
A record 20 student-athletes from the University of Arkansas at Monticello were a part of the fall portion of the Great American Conference Academic All-Conference team, taking the NCAA’s message to heart about the importance of sports to many.
Nine members of the Cotton Blossoms’ volleyball team led the way, followed by six Boll Weevil football players, four runners on the women’s cross country team and one from the men’s cross country squad. For athletes to be recognized on the prestigious list, they must have reached sophomore athletic and academic standing (true freshmen and redshirt freshmen are not eligible) and must have completed at least one full academic year at the nominating institution.
In addition, the student-athlete’s grade-point average must be a minimum of 3.30 based on the 4.0 system. The GPA is cumulative for the athlete’s entire collegiate career. League-wide, the 20 UAM student-athletes joined a record 360 that achieved Academic All-Conference honors in the sports of football, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country, 11 more than the previous high for those six sports.
In alphabetical order, the nine volleyball Blossoms recognized are Aubrey Harrison, Elizabeth Harshaw, Katie Kuehl, Lacey Lyons, Macy Mitchell, Vanessa Pawlak, Maggie Pyles, Taytumn Schlegel-Ridgway and Kendall Vondra. From the football team, Gilmar Barrera, Jared Crouch, Reggie Sanders, Cole Sears, Anthony Walker and Austin Williams are the six UAM honorees. And from the cross country units, Stormy Gallaher, Jordan Kane, Kristin McNabb and Megan Moore, as well as Johnmark Perry are included.
“I am very proud of all our GAC All-Academic student-athletes, UAM head volleyball coach Kelly Burdeau said. “They work very hard to balance being full-time students while also competing and representing our university. The faculty and professors do an outstanding job working with the student-athletes because they have to miss classes in order to travel to compete throughout the season.
“Academics is extremely important and is a priority of our team. Everything starts with academics. I want them to be successful in whatever they choose after volleyball and UAM.”
Those sentiments were echoed by head football coach Hud Jackson and head cross country coach Rob Leonard.
Harding University led with 55 of its student-athletes earning GAC Academic All-Conference, best among the 12 league institutions. The GAC champion Bison cross country team posted the highest number of All-Academic selections in that sport while the football team’s 18 All-Academic honorees rated second, behind only Southern Nazarene University’s 20. The Crimson Storm placed second with 46 total All-Academic selections.
Oklahoma Baptist University and Ouachita Baptist University ranked third and fourth in All-Academic picks. The Lady Bison’s GAC champion cross country team produced a GAC-leading eight All-Academic selections. The Tigers’ GAC Tournament champion men’s soccer team also paced the GAC, notching placing 10 on the All-Academic team
“Division II places the balance of athletic pursuit and academic excellence in its highest regards,” GAC Commissioner Will Prewitt said in a press release announcing the team.  “I congratulate all of these student-athletes for excelling in the classroom while competing with integrity on the field of play.”
GAC football student-athletes garnered the most All-Academic selections, 131, followed by 65 from women’s soccer, 63 in volleyball and 53 in women’s cross country. Southwestern Oklahoma State University, the GAC Tournament champions, and East Central University shared the lead with 12 All-Academic picks in women’s soccer while UAM paced the conference in volleyball with nine All-Academic members.

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